The Ultimate In Birding Tours

South America (and its islands)

CHILE – The Ultimate itinerary for endemics, regional specialities and Pumas

Saturday 16th November – Monday 2nd December 2024

Leader: Mark Pearman

17 Days Group Size Limit 8
Horned Coot Extension

Friday 15th November – Saturday 16th November 2024

2 Days Group Size Limit 8
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension

Monday 2nd December – Saturday 7th December 2024

6 Days Group Size Limit 8
White-bellied Seedsnipe Extension

Saturday 7th December – Sunday 8th December 2024

2 Days Group Size Limit 8
Saturday 1st November – Monday 17th November 2025

Leader: Mark Pearman

17 Days Group Size Limit 8
Horned Coot Extension

Friday 31st October – Saturday 1st November 2025

2 Days Group Size Limit 8
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension

Monday 17th November – Saturday 22nd November 2025

6 Days Group Size Limit 8
White-bellied Seedsnipe Extension

Saturday 22nd November – Sunday 23rd November 2025

2 Days Group Size Limit 8

CHILE BIRDING TOUR: OVERVIEW

Birdquest’s Chile birding tours are classics among South American birding tours. Our Chile birding tour is the ultimate tour to the country, being the most comprehensive itinerary available. Our tour spans the entire length of this scenically spectacular country and features the Atacama Desert, the Altiplano, the High Andes, the temperate forests and the wild subantarctic landscapes of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Unusual features of the Birdquest tour include the little-known Chestnut-throated Huet-huet, the very special Horned Coot, White-bellied Seedsnipe and Red-backed Sierra Finch (during short optional extensions) and no fewer than three very different pelagics, including one off Iquique in northern Chile, a second off Valparaiso and a third off Puerto Montt in southern Chile. There is even the option to visit the remote, rarely-visited Juan Fernandéz islands for some additional specialities.

Chile offers really wonderful birding. It does not have a huge avifauna, but, unlike the case in many countries, its avifauna is chock-full of very ‘high quality’ species and includes a long series of ‘signature’ birds that are high on the wants-list of many birders, including a considerable number of endemic and near-endemic species and regional specialities. Awesome seabirds, waterfowl, raptors and ‘shorebirds’ are wonderful enough, but what really makes Chile unique? The fact that Chile is the ‘Land of the Mega-Tapaculos’! Here, in the great Valdivian temperate rainforest, saplings quake as bantam-sized Black-throated and Chestnut-throated Huet Huets bound up from the ground to check for rivals or enemies and their loud, hooting cries carry far through the beautiful, mossy, fern-bedecked forests. And the huet huets are not the end of it, for there are also big, bold Chacao and White-throated Tapaculos, and even braver Moustached Turcas, to enjoy, as well as several of those little mouse-like critters we all think of as more typical of the tapaculo family.

Chile is geographically unique amongst the countries of the world! Some 2700 miles (4300km) long, yet never more than 220 miles (350km) wide, this remarkable land snakes southwards down the spine of South America. Dominated throughout by the mighty Andes, Chile is home to many of the highest mountains in South America: a land of endless icy peaks that stand sentinel over vast glaciers and icefields. Chile is also a land of breathtaking variety, with many other habitats such as the Atacama desert (punctuated by strip-shaped oases along the rivers debouching from the Andes), puna grasslands and Patagonian steppes, primaeval Araucaria and Nothofagus beech forests, isolated volcanoes of almost perfect symmetry that send out plumes of white steam into the blue heavens, and, of course, the long, deeply indented coastline with its surf-swept headlands battered by the cold waters of the Humboldt Current.

Chilean scenery is acknowledged to be amongst the finest in the world and indeed, once one has experienced its awesome magnificence, it is hard to imagine that it could be surpassed. Throughout the length of the country are some of South America’s most beautiful and well-managed national parks protecting a diversity of habitats and wildlife. We shall visit several of these during the course of our stay as we seek out the many exciting endemics and restricted-range specialities, including numerous birds belonging to monotypic genera, an outstanding selection of seabirds, and puna, desert and Nothofagus (southern beech) forest specialities, in this fascinating part of our world.

Not only is Chile a wonderful place for experiencing nature but also a modern, well-developed country which makes exploring a pleasure. From the smallest town to the capital Santiago, everything is clean, safe and attractive, and well connected by good roads and a fine internal airline network, and this is not even to mention the food and wine! This modernization has not resulted in any loss of character, however, as we shall find out when we encounter Chile’s bustling ports, small fishing villages and atmospheric Andean villages.

Our Chile birding tour starts at the city of Iquique, situated in the northern region of this long sliver of a country, where a pelagic should turn up Buller’s Albatross, Pink-footed Shearwater, Peruvian Diving Petrel and both Elliot’s and Markham’s Storm Petrels, with a real possibility of Ringed (or Hornby’s) Storm Petrel. Other great birds here include Humboldt Penguin, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Guanay and Red-legged Cormorants, Salvin’s Albatross and Inca Tern. Rare possibilities include Wedge-rumped Storm Petrel, Blue-footed Booby and Swallow-tailed Gull. Inland, we should find the restricted-range Tamarugo Conebill, while along the coast the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes is easy to locate.

After travelling to Arica, close to the Peruvian border, we will be birding in the Atacama desert where we will concentrate on the oasis-like valleys where small rivers flow down from the melting snows of the Andes. Specialities of the area include Peruvian Thick-knee, Tschudi’s Nightjar, Oasis Hummingbird, Peruvian Sheartail, the tiny, Critically Endangered endemic Chilean Woodstar, Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant and Slender-billed Finch.

From Arica, we climb into the Andes until we reach the shrubby Putre area and ultimately the bird-rich puna grasslands and lakes of Lauca National Park, where the snow-capped Parinacota and Ponerape volcanoes form an awesome backdrop to our birding. Here we will concentrate on such major specialities as Puna Tinamou, the fantastic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, the uncommon Puna Snipe, Greyish Miner, White-throated Earthcreeper, Dark-winged and Canyon Canasteros, and White-throated Sierra Finch, as well as numerous other High Andean specialities including Ornate Tinamou, ‘Puna’ Rhea, Andean and Puna Flamingoes, Giant Coot, Andean Avocet and Rufous-bellied Seedsnipe, to mention just some of the spectacular birds of this fantastic area.

After flying south to Santiago, we will head first for the nearby Pacific coast where a pelagic off Valparaiso should turn up a spectacular concentration of seabirds, including Westland Petrel, Northern Royal Albatross and with luck Masatierra (or Defilippe’s) Petrel. The wetlands of the region hold Black-necked Swan, Lake Duck, Red Shoveler, Chiloe Wigeon, Red-gartered and Red-fronted Coots, and, with a bit of luck, the parasitic Black-headed Duck and the restricted-range Ticking Doradito.

Before returning to the Santiago region, we visit the coastal mountain range where we will encounter a series of Chilean land bird specialities, including such marvellously-named endemics as Crag Chilia and Moustached Turca, as well as Dusky-tailed Canastero and Dusky and White-throated Tapaculos. Restricted-range specialities include Chilean Pigeon, Chilean Flicker, Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Fire-eyed Diucon, Austral Thrush, Chilean Mockingbird, Chilean Swallow and Black-chinned Siskin.

Next, we shall explore the rugged central Andes of Chile, home to White-sided Hillstar, Rufous-banded Miner, the range-restricted  Creamy-rumped Miner, Austral Negrito, White-browed, Ochre-naped and Black-fronted Ground Tyrants, Grey-hooded Sierra Finch, Greater Yellow Finch and Yellow-rumped Siskin.

We then head further south to the cool temperate southern beech (Nothofagus) forest region of south-central Chile, home to over 20 species endemic to the Southern Cone of South America (and some restricted purely to Chile). Some of the most sought-after of these include the splendid Magellanic Woodpecker (South America’s largest woodpecker), the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet, the large, skulking Chestnut-throated Huet-huet (Chile’s least-known tapaculo), the equally impressive Black-throated Huet-huet and the curious Des Murs’s Wiretail (a tiny and enigmatic bird with just six elongated narrow tail feathers). Others include Chilean Tinamou, Chilean and White-throated Hawks, the rare Rufous-tailed Hawk, Burrowing Parrot, Austral Parakeet, Rufous-legged Owl, Austral Pygmy Owl, Striped Woodpecker, Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, White-throated Treerunner, Chucao and Magellanic Tapaculos and Patagonian Sierra Finch.

Continuing still further south, we come to the northern end of the beautiful Chilean Fjords at Puerto Montt. We will take a third pelagic boat trip here in search of the relatively recently described Pincoya Storm Petrel, Magellanic Penguin and other seabirds in between the mainland and the wind-swept Isla de Chiloé. We will also visit an area which is reliable for the as-yet-undescribed ‘Chiloe Steamer Duck’, as well as the sought-after Hudsonian Godwit.

During the optional extension after the main tour, we will explore the far south of the country, including the windswept Patagonian steppes around Punta Arenas, spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, the veritable ‘Land of the Condor’ (where superlatives fail to describe the stalagmite-like granite massifs, the thundering waterfalls and huge glaciers), and the remote and dramatic island of Tierra del Fuego.

On the wild island of Tierra del Fuego, and during the ferry crossing to the island, we will be seeking out Magellanic Diving Petrel, Southern Fulmar, the strange Magellanic Plover (the sole representative of its family), the endangered Ruddy-headed Goose, Kelp Goose, Flying and Fuegian Steamer-Ducks, Two-banded Plover, Dolphin Gull and Lesser (or Magellanic) Horned Owl. We will also pay a visit to South America’s only King Penguin colony.

Finally, on the Patagonian steppes and coastline, and in extraordinary Torres del Paine, we will be looking for such great birds as Andean Condor (positively common here!), the handsome Upland and Ashy-headed Geese, Coscoroba Swan, Spectacled Duck, Tawny-throated Dotterel, Rufous-chested Plover, Least Seedsnipe, Short-billed Miner, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Austral Canastero, Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrant, Chocolate-vented Tyrant, Patagonian Mockingbird, Patagonian Yellow Finch, Yellow-bridled Finch and even the rare Austral Rail.

A huge attraction nowadays at Torres del Paine is the high chance of getting great views of Pumas, as they have become rather used to visitors to the area, following a reduction in hunting. We will have a skilled Puma tracker join us and we will have special access to a prime tract of terrain where Pumas are regularly sighted so that our group can maximise its chances for a great encounter or two!

There is also a short ‘extension to the extension’ to look for the near-endemic White-bellied Seedsnipe not far from Punta Arenas.

During the short optional extension before the main tour, we will explore the famous San Pedro de Atacama area. The area is renowned for its amazing eroded scenery but our prime interest will be the very rare, range-restricted Horned Coot (which is straightforward to see in this area) and even more range-restricted Red-backed Sierra Finch.

Birdquest has operated Chile birding tours since 1990.

What makes the Birdquest Chile birding tour special? Firstly we have the most comprehensive Chile birding itinerary available, even including optional but short Horned Coot, Red-backed Sierra Finch and White-bellied Seedsnipe extensions. Secondly, we have a pelagic off the port of Iquique in northern Chile. Iquique pelagics are usually more productive of special birds than those off Arica. We also have a pelagic off Puerto Montt, which is a more reliable way of seeing the sought-after Pincoya Storm Petrel than hoping to see the species during the short ferry crossing to Chiloé Island. In addition, the Birdquest group size limit is lower than for many tours to Chile. Lastly, we include the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park, which some tours omit. It is not just the rare Austral Rail one goes to the park for, but the truly awesome mountain scenery and a high chance of getting good views of one or more wild Pumas! All in all our tour is unique.

Juan Fernández Islands Extension Option: We can arrange for you to visit this remote archipelago, situated some 670 kilometres (420 miles) off the Chilean coast, in order to see the endemic Juan Fernandez Firecrown and the jaunty Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant, species that very few birders have ever seen, plus the restricted-range Masatierra (or De Filippi’s) Petrel which nests only on islets off Robinson Crusoe (or Más a Tierra) Island and in one other remote island group. Kermadec Petrel is also likely.

The itinerary shown in the Detailed Itinerary section is for guidance only. The regular flights between Santiago and Robinson Crusoe are usually twice weekly (sometimes more frequent). Return flights to the simple airstrip on the island are expensive and regularly subject to schedule changes and also weather delays, so the extension arrangements are best made after the end of the Birdquest tour. Please bear in mind that you may have some time to fill in Santiago region before you can fly to Robinson Crusoe and you should not arrange non-refundable air travel out of Santiago for at least two days following the intended return date from Robinson Crusoe to allow for a weather delay or a late schedule change.

Be sure to mention at the time of completing the booking form that you are interested in taking this extension, which will be unescorted. We will, however, be able to provide you with information on how to see the firecrown, which is uncommon but not difficult to find. Please note that the additional costs in the event of any flight delays or schedule changes are the responsibility of the participants.

Easter Island Extension Option: There can be few people who are unaware of the extraordinary stone statues of Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as it is known to its Polynesian inhabitants, one of the archaeological wonders of the world. Easter Island is governed by Chile and Santiago is the nearest airport, although the island lies some 2375 miles (3800 km) from the mainland!

The endemic avifauna was wiped out centuries ago when the inhabitants cut down all the forest, but there are some great seabirds, including Kermadec, Herald, Henderson and Phoenix Petrels (and if you are lucky Murphy’s Petrel), Christmas Shearwater, Grey and Brown Noddies, Sooty Tern, Red-tailed and White-tailed Tropicbirds, Great Frigatebird and Masked Booby.

If you would like to visit Easter Island, either before or after the tour, we can easily make the arrangements for you. One or more boat trips to the seabird islets can be made and you can either self-drive to the archaeological sites or take guided tours. Please contact us for further information.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are mostly of a good standard, occasionally of a medium standard. The guesthouse at Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego, where we spend one night, is a simple but comfortable, family-run establishment. Road transport is by minibus/passenger van and the roads are mostly very good.

Walking: The walking effort during our Chile birding tour is mostly easy but occasionally moderate grade owing to the high altitudes in the northern Andes, where even a relatively short walk uphill can be rather demanding for some.

Climate: In central and northern Chile, temperatures range from warm or fairly hot at lower altitudes, to cool and fairly cold at night and early in the morning at high altitudes. Dry and sunny weather is the rule at this time of year. In southern Chile, temperatures are typically cool or quite cold, and it is frequently rainy (it can even snow occasionally in the far south).

Bird Photography: Opportunities during our Chile birding tour are good (often very good!).

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS

  • One of our classic tours, with the most comprehensive itinerary available
  • Some of the finest scenery on the planet
  • An extraordinary number of high-quality birds, including the iconic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover
  • Great photo opportunities, as most birds are quite confiding
  • Excellent food, good accommodations and mostly easy walking
  • Three different pelagics producing many tubenoses, including rare, restricted-range storm petrels
  • Watching the sought-after Markham's Storm Petrel off Iquique and hoping for Ringed (or Hornby's) as well!
  • Close views of fancy Inca Terns and Red-legged Cormorants in the north
  • The Critically Endangered endemic Chilean Woodstar in the oases of the Atacama desert
  • Seeking out Puna Tinamou, the localized White-throated Sierra Finch, White-throated Earthcreeper and other specialities of Lauca
  • Chile is the land of the 'mega-tapaculos': Moustached Turca, the 2 huet-huets and Chucao Tapaculo are the stars of the show!
  • 'Oddball' endemics like Slender-billed Parakeet and Crag Chilia
  • Lots of shorebirds, including the unique Magellanic Plover and the stunning Rufous-chested Plover
  • Searching for the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker in the Nothofagus forests of central and southern Chile
  • A good chance of seeing the relatively recently described Pincoya Storm Petrel
  • The vastness of the windswept plains, complete with Guanacos, in Tierra del Fuego
  • A visit to the only King Penguin colony in South America proper
  • Spending time at Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most scenic places in the world
  • Very good chances of seeing Pumas in the Torres del Paine area, where we will have an expert tracker with us to help us find them
  • Several species of cetaceans are possible during the tour, including the handsome Commerson´s Dolphin
  • Finding the cryptically-coloured White-bellied Seedsnipe in its tundra-like habitat
  • Being amazed by the sheer weirdness of Horned Coots, and at close range to boot! Not to mention the Red-backed Sierra Finch...

OUTLINE ITINERARY

  • HORNED COOT EXTENSION
  • Day 1: Afternoon extension start at Calama airport. Drive to San Pedro de Atacama.
  • Day 2: Look for Horned Coot and Red-backed Sierra Finch, then drive to Iquique.
  • MAIN TOUR
  • Day 1: Evening tour start at Iquique.
  • Day 2: Pelagic boat trip off Iquique.
  • Day 3: Iquique area, then drive to Arica.
  • Day 4: Arica area, then drive to Putre.
  • Day 5: Putre area and Lauca National Park.
  • Day 6: Lauca National Park, then return to Arica.
  • Day 7: Flight to Santiago. Drive via wetlands to Valparaiso.
  • Day 8: Pelagic boat trip off Valparaiso, then drive to Olmue.
  • Day 9: La Campana National Park area, then drive to Santiago region.
  • Day 10: Andes above Santiago.
  • Day 11: Drive to Vilches.
  • Day 12: Vilches area, then drive to Temuco region.
  • Day 13: Temuco region.
  • Day 14: Temuco region, then drive to Puyehue National Park.
  • Day 15: Puyehue National Park, then drive to Puerto Montt.
  • Day 16: Pelagic boat trip out of Puerto Montt.
  • Day 17: Puerto Montt area. Midday/afternoon tour end at Puerto Montt airport.
  • PATAGONIA & TIERRA DEL FUEGO EXTENSION
  • Day 1: Afternoon/evening flight to Punta Arenas.
  • Day 2: Ferry to Tierra del Fuego. Overnight at Porvenir.
  • Day 3: Drive to northern Tierra del Fuego. Ferry to mainland. Drive to Torres del Paine area.
  • Day 4: Torres del Paine National Park and surrounding area.
  • Day 5: Torres del Paine area, then return to Punta Arenas.
  • Day 6: Morning tour end at Punta Arenas airport.
  • WHITE-BELLIED SEEDSNIPE EXTENSION
  • Day 1: Hike up a high hill in order to look for the beautiful White-bellied Seedsnipe.
  • Day 2: Morning extension end at Punta Arenas airport.

To see a larger map, click on the square-like ‘enlarge’ icon in the upper right of the map box.

To see (or hide) the ‘map legend’, click on the icon with an arrow in the upper left of the map box.

To change to a satellite view, which is great for seeing the physical terrain (and for seeing really fine details by repetitive use of the + button), click on the square ‘map view’ icon in the lower left corner of the ‘map legend’.

PRICE INFORMATION

Birdquest Inclusions: Our tour prices include surface transportation, accommodations, meals and entrance fees.

We also include all tipping for local guides, drivers and accommodation/restaurant staff.

We also include these flights:

Arica-Santiago

Puerto Montt-Punta Arenas

Deposit: 20% of the total tour price. Our office will let you know what deposit amount is due, in order to confirm your booking, following receipt of your online booking form.

TO BOOK THIS TOUR: Click here (you will need the tour dates)


2024: confirmed £6460, $8290, €7540, AUD12510. Iquique/Puerto Montt.
Horned Coot Extension: £380, $490, €440, AUD730. Calama/Iquique.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension: £2610, $3350, €3040, AUD5050. Puerto Montt/Punta Arenas.
White-bellied Seedsnipe Extension: £420, $550, €500, AUD830. Punta Arenas/Punta Arenas.
2025: provisional £6620, $8490, €7720, AUD12810. Iquique/Puerto Montt.
Horned Coot Extension: £420, $550, €500, AUD830. Calama/Iquique.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension: £2690, $3450, €3130, AUD5200. Puerto Montt/Punta Arenas.
White-bellied Seedsnipe Extension: £420, $550, €500, AUD830. Punta Arenas/Punta Arenas.

Single Supplement: 2024: £740, $960, €870, AUD1440.
Horned Coot Extension: £40, $60, €50, AUD90.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension: £270, $350, €310, AUD520.
White-bellied Seedsnipe Extension: £50, $70, €60, AUD100.
Single Supplement: 2025: £760, $980, €890, AUD1470.
Horned Coot Extension: £40, $60, €50, AUD90.
Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego Extension: £280, $360, €320, AUD540.
White-bellied Seedsnipe Extension: £50, $70, €60, AUD100.

The single supplement will not apply if you indicate on booking that you prefer to share a room and there is a room-mate of the same sex available.

This tour is priced in US Dollars. Amounts shown in other currencies are indicative.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

CHILE BIRDING TOUR: DETAILED ITINERARY

Chile: Day 1  Our Chile birding tour begins this evening in Iquique in northernmost Chile.

(There is generally a cost-saving for incorporating your flights from Santiago to Iquique and from Puerto Montt or Punta Arenas back to Santiago into your international tickets. However, if you are arranging your international flights to and from the tour and you would find it more convenient for us to supply these internal tickets we will be pleased to do so.)

Chile: Day 2  The continental shelf lies not far offshore at Iquique, and today we will take a boat trip offshore in search of pelagic seabirds. As we are around 1150 miles (1850km) north of the Valparaiso area, we can expect a rather different combination of species. Pelagic birding off Iquique is generally superior to that off Arica and sea conditions tend to be relatively calm, usually making it an easy outing for those who find pelagics a mixed blessing!

Star attractions here are the range-restricted Peruvian Diving Petrel and in particular both Elliot’s Storm Petrel and the even more sought-after Markhams’s Storm Petrel, both of which we have a high chance of seeing. There is also a fair chance (maybe 40%) for Ringed (or Hornby’s) Storm Petrel and on occasion, Wedge-rumped Storm Petrel is present in the area.

We should also encounter a number of other range-restricted specialities including Humboldt Penguin, Peruvian Pelican, Peruvian Booby, Red-legged and Guanay Cormorants, Chilean Skua, Grey and Belcher’s (or Band-tailed) Gulls and the stunning Inca Tern.

Other species that are likely to be encountered include Buller’s, Salvin’s and Black-browed Albatrosses, Northern Giant Petrel, White-chinned Petrel, Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters (the latter a speciality of the eastern Pacific), Wilson’s Storm Petrel, Neotropic Cormorant, Red (or Grey) Phalarope, Parasitic Jaeger (or Arctic Skua), Franklin’s and Kelp Gulls and Elegant and South American Terns.

Additional species that we have seen off Iquique occasionally include Blue-footed Booby, Red-necked Phalarope, Long-tailed Jaeger and Swallow-tailed and Sabine’s Gulls. Westland Petrel also occurs here but is more regular off Valparaiso.

All in all, this is going to be a fantastic experience!

During the late afternoon, we will explore the coastline around Iquique in search of the endemic Chilean Seaside Cinclodes and Surfbird in particular. We should also encounter Turkey Vulture, American and Blackish Oystercatchers, Hudsonian Whimbrel, Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling and Rufous-collared Sparrow.

Chile: Day 3  After our pelagic adventure, we will drive northwards along the Pan-American Highway to Arica for an overnight stay.

This morning we will have the chance to visit some Tamarugo (Prosopis tamarugo) woodlands inland from the coast in search of the poorly-known Tamarugo Conebill, a species that breeds only in northernmost Chile but which extends during the Austral winter into southernmost Peru.

During the afternoon we will begin our exploration of the Arica area.

Chile: Day 4  A bustling port and frontier town, Arica stands on the coast only a short distance from the Peruvian border. In what used to be Peruvian territory until the ‘War of the Pacific’, this is land-locked Bolivia’s gateway to the world with just a single train travelling daily to La Paz. Here, in the Atacama desert, one of the driest regions on earth, flow several rivers – the most well-known being the Lluta, Azapa and Chaca. Although only small rivers carry meltwater down from the Andes, their well-cultivated flood plains form a rich oasis in this harsh environment.

Our most important target species will be the diminutive endemic Chilean Woodstar, which is one of Chile’s rarest and most threatened birds, whose world population is now believed to number no more than 200, putting it in the Critically Endangered category. Remarkably this species is known only from a tiny area in northernmost Chile, apart from a few historical records of vagrants from further north and south. Clearance of almost all the natural vegetation in the few well-watered valleys in the region has resulted in a collapse of the woodstar population in recent decades.

Other great birds in this interesting area include five restricted-range specialities shared only with coastal Peru: the uncommon Tschudi’s Nightjar, the sturdy Oasis Hummingbird, the entertaining, tail-wagging Peruvian Sheartail, the spectacular little Pied-crested Tit-Tyrant and the handsome Slender-billed Finch. A sixth such species, Peruvian Pipit, also extends over the border into northernmost Chile but is very uncommon.

We should also encounter the range-restricted Peruvian Thick-knee, West Peruvian (or Pacific) Dove and Peruvian Meadowlark as well as Little Blue Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cinnamon Teal, Black Vulture, American Kestrel, Common Gallinule, Killdeer, Eared Dove, Croaking Ground Dove, Burrowing Owl, Andean Swift, White-crested Elaenia (the form here is sometimes split as Peruvian Elaenia), Vermilion Flycatcher, House Wren, Barn Swallow, Cinereous Conebill, Chestnut-throated Seedeater and Shiny Cowbird.

More uncommon possibilities include White-cheeked Pintail, Harris’s Hawk, Grey (or Black-bellied) and Semipalmated Plovers, Groove-billed Ani, the range-restricted rufescens form of the Bran-coloured Flycatcher (which is sometimes split as Rufescent Flycatcher) and Blue-black Grassquit.

Later we shall drive out of the Lluta Valley, climbing through the desert foothills into the relatively verdant high Andes. The first vegetation we encounter is striking stands of candelabra cacti which gradually give way to incredibly silent, nitrate-rich deserts and stony, scrub-filled gullies.

We will be making one or more stops en route, primarily for the range-restricted Greyish Miner, before reaching Putre, our base for the next two nights and the gateway to Lauca National Park.

Chile: Day 5  Waking up in the sleepy Andean town of Putre at about 3500m (11,500ft), where Aymara Indian town folk go about their daily business, we travel the narrow cobbled streets to a deep shrub-filled gulley.

The major restricted-range specialities around Putre are Canyon Canastero and in particular, Dark-winged Canastero, restricted to northernmost Chile, southern Peru and western Bolivia, and White-throated Earthcreeper, which is found only in northernmost Chile and southern Peru. The latter two species can only be seen on our Chile tour. We will also search for Pacific (or Peruvian) Pygmy Owl, a species which was described as new to science as recently as 1991, although it can sometimes be hard to find.

We will also hope to feast our eyes on a good variety of more widespread Andean slope birds, including Variable Hawk, Bare-faced Ground Dove, Andean Hillstar, Giant Hummingbird, Straight-billed and Buff-breasted Earthcreepers, White-winged and Cream-winged (or Puna) Cinclodes, Streaked Tit-Spinetail, Yellow-billed Tit-Tyrant, White-browed Chat-Tyrant, Blue-and-white Swallow, Chiguanco Thrush, Black-throated Flowerpiercer, Blue-and-yellow Tanager, Black-hooded, Mourning and Ash-breasted Sierra Finches, Greenish Yellow Finch, Band-tailed Seedeater, Hooded Siskin and perhaps more uncommon species of the area such as Spot-winged Pigeon, Mountain Parakeet, Spot-billed Ground Tyrant and Golden-billed Saltator. If we have both the time and the inclination, we can try for the widespread Band-winged Nightjar.

Because of the high altitudes involved, we will only make our first visit to Lauca National Park this afternoon in order to allow time for acclimatization. Our birding at Lauca will see us reach a maximum altitude of around 4500m (about 14,800ft).

Lauca National Park is a place of outstanding natural beauty. The towering snow-capped volcanoes of Pomerape and Parinacota soar to over 6300m (over 20,700ft) and on still days reflect perfectly in the deep blue waters of the Chungara Lake. A relatively short drive from Putre sees a rapid change of scenery as we penetrate above 4000m (13,100ft) and we find ourselves in the surreal world of the altiplano, which extends through parts of Chile and Argentina and large parts of Bolivia and southern and central Peru.

This harsh landscape of puna tussock grasslands, desert and shrubby steppe, dotted with numerous lakes, pools and cushion-plant bogs, is home to a large number of high Andean specialities, the most notable of which are Puna and Ornate Tinamous, Silvery Grebe of the high Andean race juninensis (a potential split), Giant Coot (which can be seen tending their enormous nest mounds), the beautiful and monotypic Diademed Sandpiper-Plover, the uncommon and rather secretive Puna Snipe and in particular the restricted-range White-throated Sierra Finch, a species that also occurs in southernmost Peru and western Bolivia but which is only ever seen on our Chile tours.

High Andean specialities of wider distribution are ‘Puna’ Rhea (which is sometimes split from Lesser Rhea), Puna Ibis, Andean Goose, Puna Teal, Andean Duck, Mountain Caracara, Andean Coot, Andean Lapwing, Puna Plover, Rufous-bellied and Grey-breasted Seedsnipes, Andean Avocet, Andean Gull, Andean Flicker, Puna Miner, Cordilleran Canastero, Puna, White-fronted and Rufous-naped Ground Tyrants, Andean Negrito and the impressive Glacier Finch (formerly White-winged Diuca Finch). If we are very fortunate we will come across White-tailed Shrike-Tyrant.

When water levels and feeding conditions are right, three flamingo species (Chilean, Andean and the smaller Puna or James’s) can be found at Lauca in good numbers, although in some years their numbers greatly diminish when changing feeding conditions force many of them to move elsewhere.

Amongst the many more widespread birds we may well see here are Crested Duck, Yellow-billed Teal, Yellow-billed Pintail, Aplomado Falcon, Greater Yellowlegs, Baird’s Sandpiper, Black-billed Shrike-Tyrant, Andean Swallow, Plumbeous Sierra Finch and Black Siskin. Golden-spotted Ground Dove and Bright-rumped Yellow Finch are uncommon possibilities.

Southern (or Mountain) Viscachas (giant chinchillas) and large numbers of grazing Vicuñas are a common sight and we may also encounter Guanacos at lower altitudes. There is even a real but modest possibility of seeing the threatened Peruvian Huemul (or Taruca), a rare deer of the pre-puna slopes.

Chile: Day 6  Our second day’s birding in Lauca National Park will be followed by a return to Arica for an overnight stay.

Chile: Day 7  An early morning flight from Arica will take us back to Santiago airport, from where we shall drive to Valparaiso on the Pacific coast for an overnight stay.

We will detour along the way to explore some wetland habitats. Here we shall find a good selection of waterbirds, likely including Great, Pied-billed and White-tufted Grebes, Great and Snowy Egrets, Black-necked Swan, Lake Duck, Red Shoveler, Chiloe Wigeon, Plumbeous Rail, Red-gartered, Red-fronted and White-winged Coots, White-backed Stilt, Brown-hooded Gull, Black Skimmer and quite possibly Spot-flanked Gallinule. We will also be looking for the localized Black-headed Duck, the world’s only exclusively parasitic duck species, and the attractive but usually uncommon Rosy-billed Pochard. Shorebirds that tend to be more irregular include Collared Plover, Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, Wilson’s Phalarope and Spotted Sandpiper.

We also have a good chance of finding the uncommon Ticking Doradito, a species restricted to central Chile and west-central Argentina. The sedge beds also hold Wren-like Rushbird and the smart Many-coloured Rush Tyrant, and with luck, we will see Stripe-backed Bittern and perhaps even South American Painted-snipe.

Other species that are likely today include Western Cattle Egret, Chimango Caracara, Southern Lapwing, Picui Ground Dove, Spectacled Tyrant, Grassland Yellow Finch, Yellow-winged Blackbird and Long-tailed Meadowlark.

Chile: Day 8  Today, weather permitting (cancellation is rare but possible), we shall take a boat trip out of Valparaiso into the seabird-rich waters of the Humboldt Current. This cold water Antarctic current, which surfaces off the Chilean coast, is rich in nutrients and supports large fish and squid populations that attract a wide variety of seabirds.

Off Valparaiso will see many of the species we encountered off Iquique, but there will be some differences. Here we shall scan amongst the many Sooty and Pink-footed Shearwaters for some of the much less numerous but regular pelagic visitors, which include Northern Royal Albatross, Southern Giant Petrel and Westland Petrel.

Masatierra (or Defilippe’s) Petrel is mainly recorded off Valparaiso from December/January onwards (it is a Austral late winter/early spring breeder in the Juan Fernández and other remote islands lying to the west of the Chilean mainland), but we still have a modest chance (around 30-40%) of an encounter during October/November.

There is also a fair chance for Southern Royal Albatross, while rarities include Chatham and Grey-headed Albatrosses, Juan Fernandez Petrel and Buller’s Shearwater.

We may also encounter one or more species of cetacean, with possibilities including Great Sperm Whale and Dusky Dolphin.

Afterwards, we will drive a short distance into the coastal cordillera and stay overnight at the pleasant colonial town of Olmue, situated near the entrance to La Campana National Park. We should arrive in time for some initial birding in the Olmue area.

Chile: Day 9  The morning will be spent birding in or around La Campana National Park, so named because of the bell-shaped mountain which dominates the area. This impressive park contains some of the northernmost Nothofagus (southern beech) forest and also thorny scrub and cacti, resembling the ‘chaparral’ country of California.

We will take advantage of the considerable bird activity early in the day to search for two secretive endemic tapaculos; the large White-throated Tapaculo (whose loud, whooping song often reveals its presence) and the diminutive Dusky Tapaculo.

Other major target species include the impressive and fearless Moustached Turca (a large tapaculo endemic to central Chile) and Crag Chilia (a sleek, rock-loving, endemic furnariid of outcrops and escarpments), although there will be further opportunities to see both of these. The endemic Dusky-tailed Canastero gives itself away by its trilling song, while other specialities we should encounter for the first time today include such near-endemics as Chilean Pigeon, Chilean Flicker, the inquisitive Thorn-tailed Rayadito, Chilean Elaenia, Fire-eyed Diucon, Rufous-tailed Plantcutter (the only cotingid found this far south), Austral Thrush, Chilean Mockingbird, Chilean Swallow, Common Diuca Finch, Austral Blackbird and Black-chinned Siskin.

More widespread birds in this area include Plain-mantled Tit-Spinetail and Tufted Tit-Tyrant, while the California Quails found here are introduced.

When we finally tear ourselves away from this excellent area, we will drive to the Santiago region for a two nights stay. We may have time for more wetland birding en route.

Chile: Day 10  The Santiago region is dominated by the magnificent Andes and on clear days there are inspiring views from every part of the region. Rising from the vineyards and farms of the central valley and soaring to 22,834ft (6960m) at the summit of Aconcagua (the highest mountain in the Americas), they are as accessible here as anywhere on the continent. Winding mountain roads with hairpin bends lead from one breathtaking view to another.

Today’s birding is strictly Andean. We will be covering a variety of montane habitats including bushy valleys, rocky crags and outcrops, stony slopes and boggy grasslands where we should encounter Black-winged Ground Dove, White-sided Hillstar (often tricky to identify, but not known to be sympatric with Andean, which occurs further north in Chile), Rufous-banded Miner (the local form is a candidate for a split), the restricted-range Creamy-rumped Miner, Buff-winged and Grey-flanked Cinclodes, Sharp-billed Canastero, Austral Negrito, White-browed, Ochre-naped, Cinereous and Dark-fronted Ground Tyrants, the localized Black-fronted Ground Tyrant, Grey-hooded and Band-tailed Sierra Finches, the range-restricted Greater Yellow Finch and Yellow-rumped Siskin. With luck, we will also find Great Shrike-Tyrant. Andean Condors often soar overhead.

Chile: Day 11  This morning we will drive southwards to Vilches, in the Talca region, for an overnight stay, stopping en route to look for the secretive and endemic Chilean Tinamou.

In the afternoon we will explore the extensive Nothofagus forest in the Andean foothills, which here reaches its northern limits. In particular, we will be listening for the nasal scolding and squeaky toy voice of Chile’s least-known endemic tapaculo, the Chestnut-throated Huet-huet. Until recently this species was sometimes lumped with its close relative the Black-throated Huet-Huet, but DNA and vocalization studies have now shown that these are indeed separate species. This large skulker favours bamboo undergrowth in shady forests where it scrapes the forest floor with its outsized tarsus. With patience and some careful manoeuvring, we should get some good views.

We will also be looking for more regional specialities including the local race of the impressive Burrowing Parrot, Austral Parakeet (the world’s most southerly parrot species), Striped Woodpecker, the plump, near-endemic Chucao Tapaculo with its explosive voice, the bold little Magellanic Tapaculo, Dark-bellied Cinclodes, the tree-hugging, chisel-billed White-throated Treerunner and Patagonian Sierra Finch. After dusk, we will look for the striking Rufous-legged Owl (now a Patagonian endemic following the splitting off of Chaco Owl).

Chile: Day 12  After some final birding in the Vilches area, we will head southwards to the Temuco region for a two nights stay.

Chile: Day 13  A prime reason for coming to the Temuco region is to look for the uncommon Rufous-tailed Hawk. We have a reasonable (perhaps around 50%) chance of seeing one during our visit, but this is an unobtrusive and uncommon near-endemic raptor that can never be guaranteed!

Our main target on the Andea slopes to the east of Temuco is the restricted-range Patagonian Forest Earthcreeper, which has been split from Scale-throated and is restricted to part of the Chilean and Argentine Andes. Here we have a good chance of seeing this unusual species, which as its name implies is a forest bird.

Flocks of Black-faced Ibises, with their far-carrying trumpeting calls, are still a familiar sight amidst the pleasant countryside of this very attractive region. This is a very good area for finding the endemic Slender-billed Parakeet. This localized species has a specially adapted long maxilla for extracting Araucaria (monkey puzzle) seeds when in season, but it spends the rest of the year amongst croplands, woodlots and orchards.

We will also have our first opportunities in the Temuco region to look for the much sought-after Magellanic Woodpecker (South America’s largest woodpecker), Torrent Duck, White-throated Hawk and some of the birds listed for Puyehue.

Chile: Day 14  After some final birding in the Temuco region we will continue southwards to Puyehue National Park for an overnight stay.

The spectacular Puyehue National Park is dominated by the maximum diversity of Nothofagus (southern beech) species, under which a dense undergrowth of Chusquea bamboo conceals some exciting but secretive tapaculos. The most spectacular is the (relatively) huge, near-endemic Black-throated Huet-huet, 10 inches (26 centimetres) of black and chestnut plumes, which has a scolding, onomatopoeic call and a bird which positively vibrates as it broadcasts its deeply resonant song. We will also be searching for the bamboo-dwelling Ochre-flanked Tapaculo, yet another monotypic genus and endemic to the Nothofagus forest region.

Having played hide-and-seek with these splendid birds we will spend the rest of our time exploring this atmospheric reserve. Here we aim to find some outstanding species including such near-endemic specialities as the uncommon Chilean Hawk, Austral Pygmy Owl, Green-backed Firecrown, the tiny, restless Des Murs’s Wiretail (South America’s answer to the Australian emuwrens!) and the attractive little Patagonian Tyrant.

Chile: Day 15  After some more birding at Puyehue, we will head southwestwards to the coastal city of Puerto Montt for a two nights stay. As we travel through the beautiful Chilean lake district we will enjoy (providing it is a clear day) the spectacular views of Volcan Osorno, one of the most perfect cones and most photographed volcanoes in the Southern Cone of South America.

Chile: Day 16  Puerto Montt is a thriving port with Chile’s largest salmon farms forming the mainstay of the local economy. The large Isla de Chiloé lies just a short distance away.

Today we will take a boat trip out into the Seno de Reloncaví, a huge bay that lies immediately to the south of Puerto Montt and then, if need be, further out into the Gulf of Ancud that lies between the mainland and Chiloé Island.

The boat trip should provide good opportunities to observe Imperial and Rock Cormorants as well as South American Sealions, but our prime target will be the fairly recently described Pincoya Storm Petrel, which is a cryptic species that was previously overlooked as Wilson’s Storm Petrel. It is still poorly known, and its breeding grounds have not yet been discovered, although it is likely to be an endemic species that breeds in the Chilean Fjords rather than on more oceanic islands. We have a very good chance of encountering this sought-after species (better than the chances from the Chiloé ferry), but even so, the presence of the species in the area seems to be a bit unpredictable, with anything from good numbers to zero being possible!

The boat trip also offers a first chance for Magellanic Penguin and the uncommon Magellanic Diving Petrel, as well as further opportunities for pelagic species we will have encountered further north. If the conditions are clear the views of the snow-capped volcanoes and Andean peaks of south-central Chile are truly spectacular!

Chile: Day 17  This morning we will explore the coastline to the west of Puerto Montt, opposite the Isla de Chiloé. Our major targets here are ‘Chiloe’ Steamer Duck (an undescribed form that may represent an endemic species), Magellanic Oystercatcher (a Patagonian endemic) and the localized Hudsonian Godwit. Lesser Yellowlegs is regular and with a bit of luck, we will also find the range-restricted Snowy-crowned Tern.

Afterwards, we will head for the Puerto Montt airport, where the main section of our Chile birding tour will end between midday and mid-afternoon (depending on flight timings).

 

HORNED COOT EXTENSION

Chile (Horned Coot): Day 1  Afternoon tour start at Calama airport in northern Chile. There are numerous flights every day from Santiago to Calama, which is a wealthy mining centre. We will be starting the tour in connection with one of the Latam flights today and will provide the flight details at the time the tour ‘start and end’ document is sent out by our office.

(There is generally a cost-saving for incorporating your flights from Santiago to Iquique and from Puerto Montt or Punta Arenas back to Santiago into your international tickets. However, if you are arranging your international flights to and from the tour and you would find it more convenient for us to supply these internal tickets we will be pleased to do so.

From Calama, we drive for over an hour to the famous tourism centre of San Pedro de Atacama, a delightful Andrean town with a lovely old quarter. San Pedro is surrounded by eroded desert mountains and at sunset the scenery here is truly extraordinary.

Chile (Horned Coot): Day 2  Early this morning we will climb up onto the altiplano above San Pedro de Atacama and visit a lagoon where the weird and wonderful Horned Coot can reliably be found. Indeed we are likely to have close views of this range-restricted, much sought-after and indeed highly localized speciality. Another major speciality in the area is the range-restricted Red-backed Sierra Finch, which occurs in just a small area of Chile and adjacent Argentina and Bolivia.

Many other altiplano birds will be seen and although all of these are likely at Lauca the views this morning may well be superior.

After our time with the coots and sierra finches, we will drive to the port city of Iquique on some fast and excellent roads. The last part of our journey will be along a spectacular section of Chile’s northern coastline, a place where the barren mountains of the Atacama Desert plunge into the Pacific Ocean, cooled here by the famous Humboldt Current. The numbers of seabirds are spectacular so we shall surely make a stop or two to admire the thousands (even tens of thousands!) of Grey Gulls and other coastal birds.

This evening we join up with those arriving at Iquique for the main tour.

 

PATAGONIA & TIERRA DEL FUEGO EXTENSION

Chile (Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego): Day 1  Depending on the flight schedule at the time, we will take an afternoon or an evening flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas in southernmost Chile for an overnight stay. This spectacular flight follows the Andes southwards over uninhabited terrain marked by volcanoes, hundreds of ice-encrusted peaks, glaciers and inaccessible lakes before the mountains give way to the flat steppes of Patagonia.

Chile (Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego): Day 2  This morning we will take the direct, roughly two-hour, ferry from Punta Arenas to Porvenir on the island of Tierra del Fuego, where we will stay overnight.

Once again the number of tubenoses during the crossing will testify to the richness of Chilean waters. Black-browed Albatrosses and Southern Giant Petrels are common, and we will have another chance for good looks at Chilean Skua. Southern Fulmar and Magellanic Diving Petrel are regularly observed and sometimes Cape Petrels can be seen, as can Peale’s Dolphins.

Tierra del Fuego is a place that Charles Darwin described in his book The Voyage of the Beagle as ‘a scene of savage magnificence. It was named by Magellan after the fires the local Amerindians lit to warn others of his arrival. Porvenir is a small town where Croatian settlers were attracted by a gold rush in 1883.

At the top of the agenda in Tierra del Fuego will be the strange and highly sought-after Magellanic Plover, such an oddball that it has been placed in its own family and indeed may not even be a shorebird at all. Although inconspicuous, it can be remarkably tame. Additional target birds will include Kelp Goose, Fuegian and Flying Steamer Ducks, Two-banded Plover, Magellanic Snipe, White-rumped Sandpiper, the handsome Dolphin Gull and the uncommon White-bridled (or Canary-winged) Finch. We will also dedicate some time to tracking down the threatened Ruddy-headed Goose, now down to just 300 pairs in South America proper (and almost extinct on the mainland), although still thriving in the Falklands. Another important target is the splendid Lesser (or Magellanic) Horned Owl. Snowy (or Pale-faced) Sheathbill is a rare possibility.

We will also visit Bahía Inútil (Useless Bay) in order to enjoy the recently established colony of King Penguins that now makes this area their home. Of all the penguins, Kings are probably the most impressive and there are generally between 50 and 150 present.

Chile (Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego): Day 3  We will head off early for the northern coast of Tierra del Fuego and make the short ferry crossing to the mainland. The ferry is often accompanied by Commerson’s Dolphins, a stunning black-and-white species endemic to Patagonia and the Falklands. Once ashore, we shall head for the Torres del Paine National Park region for a two nights stay.

During the journey, we will explore some wild Patagonian back roads. High on our list of targets will be such regional specialities as Tawny-throated Dotterel, Rufous-chested Plover, Short-billed Miner, Band-tailed Earthcreeper, Chocolate-vented Tyrant and Patagonian Yellow Finch. In addition, Common Miner and Correndera Pipit should be encountered.

Chile (Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego): Day 4  Exploring the world-famous Torres del Paine National Park is a wonderful experience. Thrusting abruptly over 6600ft (2000m) out of the Patagonian Plain, the Torres del Paine area is perhaps South America’s most dramatic mountain landscape. Surrounded by glaciers and stunted forests, these granite towers (torres being Spanish for towers, though the origin of Paine is still debated) dominate the majestic scenery of the region. Meltwater from the glaciers plunges over vertical cliffs, forming rushing rivers that feed a multitude of azure lakes surrounded by meadows full of foxgloves and daisies. From every angle, the awesome spires offer a different yet equally dramatic aspect and we shall surely have difficulty deciding when to call a halt to the scenic photography!

These days the Pumas (or Mountain Lions) in the Torres del Paine area have become quite habituated to humans and we have a very good chance of one or more sightings during our visit. This is not just because their habits in the area are starting to become better known, but also because they have become much less fearful of humans following the cessation of hunting in the vicinity of the park. We will have a skilled Puma tracker join us for part of our stay in the area and we will have special access to a prime tract of Puma habitat where sightings are frequent in order to maximise our chances for sightings!

Guanacos, a wild relative of the Llama, are a common sight and Argentine Grey Foxes are regularly seen.

This is Andean Condor country par excellence and one of the few places where these spectacular birds remain truly common. Often to be found on the ground in the early morning, when the up-draughts start we shall likely see them in all their splendour as they unfurl their mighty wings, take to the air and rapidly gain height above our heads.

The major avian attraction here is the very rare and poorly-known Austral Rail. A Birdquest tour group discovered it in the park in 2010, and we shall certainly make an effort to see this fairly elusive speciality which was feared extinct for almost 50 years. Hearing one is the easy part, but with persistence, we have a good chance of seeing one.

Other interesting birds we shall look for both inside and outside the park include Lesser Rhea (here of the nominate form known as ‘Darwin’s Rhea’), Silvery Grebe, Coscoroba Swan, elegant Upland and Ashy-headed Geese, Bronze-winged (or Spectacled) Duck, Cinereous Harrier, Black-chested Buzzard-Eagle, White-throated Caracara (scarce but regular at certain spots), Least Seedsnipe, Austral Canastero, Scale-throated Earthcreeper, Cinnamon-bellied Ground Tyrant, Patagonian Mockingbird, and (access and time permitting) the scarce Yellow-bridled Finch. We have further opportunities here to locate the fascinating Torrent Duck and the impressive Magellanic Woodpecker. Additional species of the area include Crested Caracara, Peregrine Falcon and Grass Wren.

Chile (Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego): Day 5  After a final day enjoying the magnificent Patagonian wilderness we will return to Punta Arenas for an overnight stay.

Chile (Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego): Day 6  Our Chile birding tour ends this morning at Punta Arenas airport.

 

WHITE-BELLIED SEEDSNIPE EXTENSION

Chile (White-bellied Seedsnipe): Day 1  Note that this excursion takes place on what is Day 6 of the Patagonia & Tierra del Fuego extension. Instead of leaving Punta Arenas today, you will stay in the city for an extra night.

This morning we will travel to the base of one of the high hills in the Punta Arenas region. The hike up to the White-bellied Seedsnipe area is for the fit and determined since it takes several hours, but once in its tundra-like habitat, there is a high chance of a sighting. Yellow-bridled Finch is another speciality that is quite common in the area and there are no access or time issues so the chances of an encounter are pretty well certain. The excursion will be with the Birdquest leader if numbers permit, but otherwise with a local bird guide. Please note that the published extension price is based on a minimum of three persons. We can run the extension just for one or two people but in that event, there will have to be a substantially increased price to cover the higher guide and transportation costs per person.

Chile (White-bellied Seedsnipe): Day 2  The extension ends this morning at Punta Arenas airport.

JUAN FERNÁNDEZ ISLANDS

Juan Fernández: Day 1 From Santiago you will take a flight to Isla Robinson Crusoe, as it is now known, in the remote Juan Fernández archipelago for a three nights stay. The island was formerly called Más a Tierra, meaning ‘nearer to land’, to differentiate it from Más Afuera island, meaning ‘further out’ (to sea). The island was renamed in honour of the famous character in the novel by Daniel Defoe, who was inspired by Alexander Selkirk, who was voluntarily marooned on the island in the early 18th century. After the two-and-a-half-hour flight from Santiago, you will be transferred from the airstrip by motorboat to the island’s only settlement, San Juan Bautista.

The journey provides the first opportunity to see Masatierra (or Defilippe’s) Petrel, which only breeds in Juan Fernández on two uninhabited offshore islands, as well as Kermadec Petrel. Once ashore it is just a short distance to our pleasant family-run guesthouse.

Juan Fernández: Day 2  Robinson Crusoe lies some 670km (416 miles) off the coast of central Chile and is the only permanently inhabited island in the group. During your stay on this unforgettable island, lush with tree ferns, wind-weathered sandalwoods and giant Gunnera (rhubarb-like plants), you will be able to admire the large and magnificent Juan Fernandez Firecrown and the jaunty Juan Fernandez Tit-Tyrant. Both of these endemics are threatened and, by virtue of their location, some of the world’s most seldom-seen birds. Indeed the firecrown is now thought to qualify as Endangered owing to predation by feral cats and rats.

You can also opt to take a boat trip off Robinson Crusoe in order to get more views of Masatierra (or Defilippe’s) Petrel and Kermadec Petrel. (During visits from late November onwards, there is also a modest chance of seeing Juan Fernandez Petrel and a very slim chance for Stejneger’s Petrel.)

Juan Fernández: Day 3  After some final birding at Robinson Crusoe, including more petrel views on the boat trip to the airport, you will fly back to Santiago.

(Note: Depending on flight schedules at the time of the visit, it may be necessary to stay on Robinson Crusoe for three nights or more.)

CHILE TOUR REPORT 2022

by Eustace Barnes

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ULTIMATE CHILE TOUR REPORT 2019

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Other 'Southern Cone' of South America birding tours by Birdquest include: